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Aish Kodesh, May 2, 2013, Parsha Behar Bechukosai

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Aish Kodesh, May 2, 2013, Parsha Behar Bechukosai

May 2, 2013 Aish Kodesh Parsha Behar - Bechukotai

There’s a wonderful movie, Quartet, with Dustin Hoffman. His parents have the same names as my parents, Lillian and Harry Hoffman.

Today is the 37th day of the omer. The omer is one of the simplest mitzvahs because all you have to do is count. Today is the discipline necessary for intimacy.

Student: It’s scary to accept intimacy. It takes a lot of discipline to use it only for the right reasons.

Person: I recommend the last scene of The West Wing, season 7 episode 21. It discusses this.

Rabbi: What blocks intimacy?

Student: Dishonesty.

Rabbi: Where does lying have a tremendous impact on blocking people.

Person: Laban.

Rabbi: He changes the agreement all the time. It’s manipulative and it causes tremendous problems.

Student: A lot of things can interfere with trust. Buying flowers is a lot easier than holding back on your behavior.

Rabbi: We’re building a tripod of an intimate foundation. We need a foundation from birth in the way we are nurtured. The tripod is Netzach and hod, which is yielding. The person is Joseph. We’re asking the sunset to give us strength because The Torah says this is the most confusing area of human behavior. It’s like a building; you’re trying to make a solid foundation for your life, and intimacy is a major factor for that. A lot of variables feed into it.

Student: Risk. To become intimate with someone you have to be willing to expose yourself that you’re risking all those things you do around people you’re not intimate with. The other person is risking also. If one starts using any of the things you’ve exposed- I can feel the fear just talking about it.

Rabbi: What are the signs and feelings of intimacy?

Student: When you’re uncomfortable and really trusting and you find out it’s okay.

Rabbi: How do you know if you’re intimate with G*d? In counting the omer we use our knowledge of human emotions to extrapolate. How do you take a risk with G*d?

Student: I think I’m keeping secrets but the reality is HaShem knows anyway. I may find out through the dialogue that it’s really okay.

Person: I know I’m intimate with HaShem when I’m sharing the deepest darkest ugliest stuff and I’m able to talk about it with HaShem. Or when I can talk about those things with people. When I feel safe with the ugliness.

Rabbi: Prayer is a key tool of intimacy. Prayers feel very different. There’s a range of prayer. The Peleh Yoetz says some people don’t want to pray. Those people are captured by their materiality, shopping maul reality, and they don’t have a desire to pray. Mater asurim- The next category down is people who show up to pray but don’t feel anything. It’s totally disappointing. People are mouthing the prayers and reading them fast. People seem to be quite happy with that. People come to shul and socialize. Nadab and Abihu craved that fervor. The Baal Shem Tov would often ask an illiterate shepherd to lead the prayers because when he whistled his prayers there would be tremendous emotion. Reb Zusha met this guy who brought his siddur and said I need you to tell me what to say when. They took little pieces of paper and put it in and told him say this prayer, say that. They were walking out of town and a big wind came up and blew all the papers out of the siddur. He started running after the two rebbes. Do it again! He had to have the directions what to say at the right time. They thought it was an anti-Semite so they started running. They come to a big river and Elimelech takes a handkerchief out and says stop flowing for us and the river stopped and they walked across. The man saw what they did so he put his handkerchief out and the water parted. The two rebbes stopped cold. Zusha said whatever you’re doing, keep on doing it.

We put a lot of effort into prayers. Every Sunday morning we are praying with music here. I enjoy it so much more when people say it with hand gestures instead of just having one chazzan saying it. Davening means from your parent. You learn to pray standing next to your parent in silence, just catching the body language. Some of us have to learn it ourselves.

Student: Remembering. How could I forget I love this person? HaShem said happy birthday to me. I might be kidding myself but it’s a good place to live.

Person: If people really know who I am they’ll reject or hurt me. It’s the discipline of knowing when to speak and when not to speak.

Student: Sometimes you need to remember but sometimes you need to forget and not stew about something. You have to know when to HOD them!

Rabbi: In Jewish history it was so critical to know I have to leave everything behind. A German rabbi hears a knock on his door at 10:30 at night and sees an SS colonel standing there. He thinks ‘I’m toast.’ The colonel said ‘Herr Rabiner, they’re coming to get you. Don’t take anything. Start running.’ The rabbi asked ‘why are you warning me?’ The SS man said ‘my father during the depression was working for a Jew and the Jew caught him stealing money. The Jewish shop owner called you up and asked him what to do. You said ‘don’t fire him, just don’t let him handle the cash.’ I’m so grateful and that’s why I’m here tonight.’ The rabbi made it out because of this. When you’re kind to someone it’s a mitzvah.

In my father’s liquor store we caught people stealing and I watched what he did. It was different every time. One time it was a man who worked for him for 30 years and he caught him taking cases of liquor out the back door. He didn’t fire him. This man had been in one of the Japanese camps around Denver and my father was the only employer who would hire a Japanese man.

Chesed is one of the key functions in intimacy. You have to know how to love with intimacy. If you put it out there it’s gonna come back at you. G*d shadows us with our own energy.

Person: Restraining yourself from being critical. I’ve been studying that lately. You want to improve things without being critical.

Student: Projection blocks intimacy. Controlling one’s reactivity is the discipline, a person is more able to be present and have the other person share and be a person. Everyone bows to the anger when a person is reactive.

The connection is the same with HaShem. It’s being honest with oneself and listening to oneself. Lots of people want to think they’re more or less or something they’re not. Being present with one’s limitations without shame or humiliation. That’s a big step towards being intimate with G*d.

Rabbi: The Aish Kodesh’s image of crying in the Mysterim with G*d and crying with those people you’re close to. Most people didn’t have someone to cry with when they needed it. It’s vital. When they get to be adults they don’t have people to cry with. It’s a very vulnerable moment. The vital part of learning to comfort ourselves and each other. The Mysterim connects with Yesod because it means secret, hidden room. It’s a vital part of this discipline. You have to let down your guard and cry with people. I’m amazed at what a powerful effect it has when it happens.

Student: Being non-judgmental towards another person. You can’t affect the thing. You can sense the regret and just be with them. You don’t even have to say anything. Be present.

Rabbi: You have to trust your own gevurah, your ability to make boundaries. We all have an adult and a child inside. If your child doesn’t trust your adult to create safe space, then it’s impossible to get close to anybody else. If you don’t trust yourself how can you trust anybody else?

Person: This is confusing. Sometimes you should have Gevurah, not chesed. Someone put something upside down, unbalanced so it would have fallen easily and put something dirty in it; this new object was now chipped. I talked to them and felt terrible.

Rabbi: When I make my life feel safe for my child and not as the critical parent but as the responsible reasonable adult, my child behaves much better. Create boundaries in a warm way.

Person: This was more hot than warm.

Rabbi: Yosef has this crash where all he wants to do is learn how to be close to his brothers. But they all hated him and were jealous of him. His father supported a habit of tattle telling. He’s searching in the field and meets Elijah the prophet who points him to the place called Judgment and he’s crashing around in this field full of boulders and rocks. His brothers say here comes the dreammaster and then they try to kill him. Nobody can tell the truth. Everybody’s lying. In every family we find important lies of things that are not faced and that is not good for intimacy. The Torah says there’s emotional incent and physical incest. Where there are no doors or locks you need the most trust and when that’s violated nobody is safe and no one will tell the truth. In this family nobody could say the truth. Josef himself is silent for 22 years. And Josef is put into prison. There he hears a prophecy and his father, Jacob, taught him how to be connected to HaShem. He hears a voice saying ‘hate got you into this, love has to get you out.’ Joseph has to do teshuva for the pain he caused each person in the family. Then he came to the really hard part, the pain he caused himself. ‘I met the enemy and it’s me.’ Pogo.

Person: You need to have the discipline to move past your habits.

Rabbi: That’s why on the day of your wedding you have to do all the Yom Kippur prayers, to throw the baggage out. We all create our own prisons and we have to see what the bars on the prison cell are. When Josef interpreted the dream of the butler he says when you get your job back, remember me. That was his habit. When he was in a jam he would use his good locks and his superior intelligence and prophetic abilities. The wine steward totally forgot about him. HaShem says not so fast, you’re not going anywhere until you come to terms with the pain you’re causing yourself. That all had to do with intimacy. Favored children had a very hard time.

Josef was favored because his father felt guilty. He expected everybody to give him that focus and attention so he had a hard time getting close to people. Joseph was always successful. It’s easy to mistake attention for intimacy. We get false reads because we think attention is intimacy.

He did that with Potiphar’s wife. He screams to HaShem I resisted Potiphar’s wife. My brother had sex with his daughter-in-law and he’s out there having a great time and I’m sitting in prison. HaShem says you judge everybody by the breadth of a hair so I will judge you by the breadth of a hair. Your brother gave Tamar the benefit of the doubt. Your brother is a fly in the wine; he saw his mistake as a live thing, something that could get through the screen door, and you saw your mistake as a stone in the bread, something that should have been prevented. That really put the squeeze on poor Joseph. He said you combed your hair for six hours that day. You came this close to having an affair with your boss’s wife who trusted you. He had to conjure up a way to bring his brothers and family back together. He had to give them a test; that’s realistic. That’s gevurah. It was a great psychodrama. You could be with somebody your life and not know them. You can be with yourself your whole life and not know yourself.

This is one of the great Torah stories that got printed word for word in the Koran as well. They took the name from our midrash and put it in our Koran. More Muslims know the name of Potiphar’s wife than Jews. She was a powerful woman, very wealthy. She introduced him to all the noblewomen of Egypt. They were so enthralled that instead of peeling cucumbers they peeled their fingers. He realizes that all the attention he got from all these intelligent powerful women- He said I’m going to marry Osnat, a slave, the daughter of a rape from Dina, his half-sister. He finds her by an amulet around her neck. She’s in the same house. They were the two people who had been ejected from the family.

Person: Sometimes the favorite and the black sheep are the same person.

Rabbi: He talked to her intimately and said we have to create a different dynamic in our children. We have to create a supportive environment where the siblings can be intimate with each other and not repeat these serious sins of favoritism and rivalry. All the stories from the parents and grandparents had been passed down. You have to check things out, hear the stories, learn the stories, so he made the choice to marry Osnat and created a new type of family where people learned to be honest with each other and trust each other. Intimacy is a skill. They did teshuva and that’s one of the most important accomplishments in the whole book of Beresheit. When he realized all of this he let out a scream. He saw he had caused his own pain. All Egypt heard that scream and within one minute Pharaoh had his dream and he was out of prison the next day. Joseph is the one we hold onto for Yesod because he struggled with it. He was just another pretty face. We ask Joseph and the sunset for help, this confusing light and dark, what’s hormones and what’s real intimacy. It gets harder as we go through the sepherot. A lot of different signals. Each detail in the story is important. He was able in the land of Egypt which had no sexual boundaries whatsoever in a solitary thing without the support of a family, figure things out and make a Jewish family of trust and faith in the Jewish people. Running the economy, being the best and brightest, pales in comparison to this achievement. It’s better to be the tail of the lion than the head of the foxes. Thank you Joseph, Osnat, Ephraim and Menashe, for teaching us about intimacy. Now we can count the omer. Today is 38 days in the omer. This is teferet, the truth and balance and beauty necessary for intimacy. Balance is the main part. It’s vital for every aspect of life.

The parameters of the Torah takes a lot of trust. The rewards are plentiful. It’s very hard to yield. The mitzvah of Behar is what. It was the hardest mitzvah. Land reform. Land redistribution. Part of the balance between Netzach and Yesod is that in every relationship people are competing for control. We have to balance competition and cooperation. You can’t eliminate competition.

Person: Competition can be healthy. Exercise partners push each other so you get more fit. Study partners: you study a little deeper and a little longer.

Rabbi: When you try to eliminate competition sometimes there’s hell to pay. On a kibbutz they had all kinds of problems. One person got a gift of a color TV and they had a meeting and said one person can’t have a TV and they didn’t want to insult the people who gave the gift, so they decided he could keep the TV but not plug it in.

The Torah says you don’t suppress things. Competition is an energy HaShem put into human beings. At the end of 50 years land was often concentrated in the hands of the foxes. Other people lost their land. Land is the basis of wealth. The Torah says every 50 years redistribute the land equally. This is the proper balance of cooperation and competition. It includes the paradox. You have to always turn the two into one. Take the two contradicting forces. Inheritance tax is a type of redistribution and there is tremendous lobbying to get rid of it.

Person: At year 49 the economy breaks down. No one will buy land, no one will lend.

Rabbi: They made a way of getting around it. They gave their debts to the court and they could get a loan. The job of the rabbis was to make these things work. The Torah says we have to create shalom out of all that.

Dads compete with sons and mothers with daughters.

Student: It seems like a lesson in attachment and non-attachment.

Rabbi: We have Shabbos to let go every week. We have shmita to let go every 7 years and yovel to let go every 49 years. We have 7 cycles of weeks in the year. We’re always working from the micro to the macro. I have friends who are farmers who do the shmita every 7 years still. Letting the land lie fallow and spend the year studying. Shmita is very much alive and well in Israel. Seven means how can we be satisfied. Be’er sheva, the well of seven. If you don’t know how to comfort yourself you end up with a very scared child inside of you. A lot of the cycles of seven is learning how to create a safe space inside yourself. Those are the mitzvahs that take the most discipline. The hardest ones are to rest. Shabbos nourishes everything else. How can everything be nourished by me not doing anything?

Student: It’s my father’s yartzeit and his passion was writing about land reform. The timing is incredible.

Rabbi: We can feel his soul kvelling.

I’m going to read this piece about making peace between contradictions. Reads from the Paradox triangle revised.

-I shall bring a powerful wind to the world’¦. Rabbi Gershon (grandson of the Ishbitzer) expounds on the sometimes fractious relationships’¦.

In this Jewish community every rabbi is competing with every other rabbi, for turf and everything. TALE OF SIX BLIND MEN. ‘It is a parable that has crossed between many religious traditions and is part of Jain, Buddhist, Sufi and Hindu lore.’ Wikipedia. Rabbi: This is a 19th century Chassidic rebbe in the Ukraine. Tell them to add ‘Jewish.’

Sufi Muslim
The Persian Sufi poet Sanai of Ghazni (currently, Afghanistan) presented this teaching story in his The Walled Garden of Truth.[6]
Rumi, the 13th Century Persian poet and teacher of Sufism, included it in his Masnavi. In his retelling, "The Elephant in the Dark", some Hindus bring an elephant to be exhibited in a dark room. A number of men touch and feel the elephant in the dark and, depending upon where they touch it, they believe the elephant to be like a water spout (trunk), a fan (ear), a pillar (leg) and a throne (back). Rumi uses this story as an example of the limits of individual perception:
The sensual eye is just like the palm of the hand. The palm has not the means of covering the whole of the beast.[7]
Rumi does not present a resolution to the conflict in his version, but states:
The eye of the Sea is one thing and the foam another. Let the foam go, and gaze with the eye of the Sea. Day and night foam-flecks are flung from the sea: oh amazing! You behold the foam but not the Sea. We are like boats dashing together; our eyes are darkened, yet we are in clear water.[7]
Rumi ends his poem by stating "If each had a candle and they went in together the differences would disappear." [8]

There is a deficit in our system. We have prided ourselves of the Jubilee of communal life that provides a safety net.


Student: I’m excited to read the parsha through the lens of both attachment and competition. I was looking at it through one lens, attachment. The lens that you brought is competition.

Person: I pass.


Student: Review: Two rabbis were discussing a law that just came down. One says what is this law about, cheese and the heathens. It talks of the rennet of a non-kosher animal. He deflects the conversation because the law was new and you have to wait a year. We talked about why a little bit. He quotes a verse from Song of Songs. Is it his words are sweeter than wine or her words? Her love is better than wine. The wine is the written Torah and her kisses’kisses can be translated as biting. I’m not sure that’s what it says. Aish Kodesh says the words of the Torah are-

Rabbi: What’s the contradiction that the rabbis are making peace between?

Student: The idea of questioning and giving someone else’s two cents. There are two contradictions. One is combining milk with a meat product. Rennet is an enzyme from a cow’s stomach. The second contradiction is you can combine meat with milk with a kosher animal but not with a non-kosher animal.

Rabbi: Then they have an additional rule that when they make a difficult law with a complicated discussion that we don’t discuss it for a year. You have to trust the rabbis that they made their best effort to find a balanced way to make this decision. People said not in a million years will I eat a combination of meat and milk. If you’re a linear person the discussions of the rabbis never make any sense. They are more interested in the way they form a law than the actual law itself. Trust us that we crafted this law with great skill and insight. Somehow they won the trust of the Jewish people and the Talmud ruled Jewish life for 2,000 years. That’s really amazing. It doesn’t seem logical. What they are proposing is very difficult that everybody should read this process and study the Talmud. I would have said they’d get about ten Jews. But that defined Judaism for 2,000 years and more people are studying the Talmud today than ever before. If you had come to America in the 1950s everybody would have told you the Talmud is going out, nobody will study it any more, Talmudic Judaism is dead, all the Jews are conservative or reform but they’re not interested in the Talmud. It’s a phenomenal tool to learn this process of people who are thinking and conscious and bringing strands of reality together. They call their group the Society of Friends. It’s about love. The Torah is called a document from the mouth of discipline. It’s a tough document. It says an eye for an eye and the Talmud turns it into legislation that brings out the love and cooperation. I’m very proud to be a lover of the Talmud. It’s called the sea of Talmud because people constantly drown there.

Page 88: the Talmud explains the subtlety in R. Joshua’s diversion’¦.

Rabbi: You’re going to compare Torah study to a French kiss?

-R. Joshua uses the verse to imply that the teachings of the Rabbis’¦.

Rabbi: The Torah is like the U.S. Constitution and the Talmud is like all the laws that have been derived. Every law has to be in harmony with the Constitution.

-Let us try to understand’¦.

Rabbi: Dan told a story where a man changed the subject and here the same thing happens

-Why, in order to change the subject’¦

Rabbi: Then we change the subject to her kisses were sweeter than wine?

-The Talmud says that R. Joshua’¦.

Rabbi: It’s still dependent on what we just read: HaShem has a greater tapestry in mind. Each piece from the Torah is one thread from that tapestry. If I don’t understand this thread, then I still do it because it’s part of the Torah. G*d gave it and I trust that there is a tapestry. When they were building the mishkan they all thought they were doing the best work until they saw it all come together. Then they saw a Higher hand was guiding them.

-It might, however, be thought otherwise’¦.

Rabbi: Give an example.

Person: Milk and meat and milk and chicken.

Rabbi: Colfax is considered a public domain. The rabbinic law says if there’s no eruv I can’t carry outside my door.

-It might be argued that a person’¦.

Student: If you just have the action without the knowledge it doesn’t have much effect on you.

Rabbi: the problem through history was the Torah comes from G*d but I’m not going to trust those rabbis. This is a human-made law, like the law of not carrying something out of your yard.

-Its purpose is only to guard against infringement’¦.

Rabbi: The Torah, G*d and the Jewish people are one, and He’s giving us the tools to make legislation, which is an art. The way they do this is the key piece of it. My children have beaten me! Moshe says the Torah is not in heaven, it’s down here on earth. The majority of the Sanhedrin makes the law. It’s holy because it expresses a partnership. There was a law between the Talmud and the Torah.

Student: the Kharites.

Rabbi: The Sadducees who said you count the omer from the day after Shabbos, the Sunday. They didn’t want to acknowledge rabbinic power. Most of contemporary Judaism says that.

Person: The Aish Kodesh says the process is more important than the content?

Rabbi: The Talmudic rabbis were committed to the process. They never give you the law. The Talmud is a process statement. Xtianity was based on rejecting the rabbis.

Every piece is taking individual threads and bringing them together in synergy. You’re always having arguments between these rabbis and it’s in the argument you see the synthesis of all the different sides. Every one has a majority and minority opinion. Every law brings together different opinions. That’s a model for peace, for conflict resolution for the whole world.

-As the Talmud quoting R. Akiba says’¦.

Person: Until this point he hints that the only reason to ask the question was to argue about it. But now he says that the rabbi asked the question so he could fulfill it better, with his understanding.

-The ordinances enacted by the sages’¦.


Person: I like that.

-In the name of his holiness, my teacher’¦.

Rabbi: A key idea of intimacy: you have to nullify your ego. It’s a hard level to get to. People are attached to their one thread and hold onto it desperately. Bitul ha aish is a major hurdle. It’s confident humility. You think you’re losing your prerogatives. You’re gaining yourself. It’s a total paradox. That’s what Joseph experienced in prison. When we let go of our baggage we gain ourself. I’m giving away the tzedukah; I’m gaining wealth. The goal of the Talmud is to improve your choice making. Not to create religious robots. They want you to instill in your head the skills that went into making these laws. When you do that you become more active. If I’m passive on Shabbos, I’m becoming active. People don’t often think that. They’re much more linear about it.

-Now, even though with the observance of every commandment’¦.

Rabbi: Gedulah is the expansiveness of chesed.

Rabbi: The omer converts Pesach into Shabbos.

Student: If you really concentrate on each of these aspects of sepherot, you’ll enter a state of Shabbos.

Rabbi: We’re taking an event, getting out of jail, Pesach, getting out of slavery. The thesis of the Torah is there were external circumstances and we had a slave inside of us; we create our own prison. When we count the omer and receive the Torah, we’re turning that get of jail card into some freedom into improving ourselves. That turns Pesach into Shabbos, the liberation of ourselves.


Student: I thought that after Pesach we’re supposed to have birth potential before the omer counting.

Rabbi: Pesach is just about getting out of jail. Then we have to make something out of ourselves.

Person: It’s like the beginning and the end. Can we do the internal work of the omer, coming down to malchut makes it Shabbat.

Rabbi: Pesach is the potential is born. Counting the omer and going to Sinai is the potential starting to express itself. It’s only when we become something. Counting the omer is becoming something with the great gift of freedom which we got on Pesach. This helps us fulfill a process of birth and maturation that we’re all involved in. we’re all a work in progress. Shabbos is finishing. Every Shabbos we finish all our goals. Turns Pesach, which is the beginning, into the end, is what the omer does.

Person: It’s like the piece where rachamim had to be created before Elokim.

Rabbi: The beginning of thought and the end of action.

Student: Rabbi Kook wrote something about Pesach turning into the Shabbos. Recognize the sanctity of the Jewish people because there’s this relationship between the Sabbath and the holidays parallel the written and oral Torah. Sabbath is divinely assigned and the holidays are assigned by the sages. HaShem sanctifies the Sabbath and the Jewish people. It’s not just listening to the rabbis, but the rabbis recognizing the sanctity of the Jewish people.

Rabbi: Humans fix the festivals through two witnesses saying there is a new moon.

Person: I’m in awe of your statement that you got 50% of this. It’s not just the Jewish people that generate commandments. Each one of us generates commandments. I have no idea what that means.

Rabbi: Mitzvah means connection, commandment and at the synthesis it means good advice. Good advice you trust. Commandment makes you rebel. Connection is the love between HaShem and the Jewish people. It could be translated generating connections, generating good advice.

Person: I heard someone say that the time of counting the omer is like chol ha moed. Pesach is the first day and Shavuos is the end.

Rabbi: Right. The giving of the Torah and the birth of the nation is our purifying ourselves is all one process.

Student: That’s why it’s one mitzvah to count, not 49.

Rachel: I liked the story of the SS man saving the life of the German rabbi. I was thinking what does the story of Joseph have to do with anything, but when you said he was Yesod it made sense. My father’s father’s name was Yosef and you were talking about Yosef today.

Rabbi: Joseph’s mother was Rachel.

Student: As a child no one comforted me when I was crying. It’s been difficult for me to learn to comfort myself but I’m doing it slowly, slowly. The omer is more challenging as we approach Shavuos. I like the triangle piece about making the competition and collaboration synthesized to become one.

Rabbi: You have created your own triangle: Joseph, George and Rachel. There are no coincidences.

Person: We talked about empty prayer as a possibility. I think there’s more to it. Someone told me once that prayer always works. Even if we don’t connect to it, it gives us feedback about where we’re at. ‘I’ve been thinking about these things during the week. When we’re caught by opposites we’re being rubbed by two things and it’s in the friction between them that we can take something in as our own, make it a part of us, as if we’ve eaten it. ‘ When I started studying with you, I wanted to do it all by myself and I didn’t trust the rabbis at all. Over the years I have seen the wisdom of their decisions and I have developed a lot of trust. ‘ G*d creates reality by speaking. The rabbis create reality. Rabbi Tatz tells a story about a rabbi who loved onions but when he was being served onions by someone whose kashrut he didn’t trust, he told her he didn’t like onions. From that day on he never ate another onion. This was because he created the reality in which he didn’t like onions. But we create reality, too. Tonight we spoke about creating our own prisons. We are like G*d. ‘The Aish Kodesh hints that the mitzvote are tools to help us get closer to G*d. That is another piece of what I have been working on since Passover: how to do it right without getting upset at the circumstances or people who prevent our getting it right.

Student: There has been competition all through history. It’s interesting.

Rabbi: And it’s part of one fabric.

Student: The bigger Jewish people.

Rabbi: And in the midst of the fray, how do you keep that bigger piece in mind, holding onto the elephant?

Person: I like the class’s input on discipline and intimacy and how to make intimacy with HaShem. I like what you had to say about the crying in the Mysterim and being able to cry with someone. This piece starts intellectual but then it becomes more intimate about passing the torch, giving the Torah to the people, image of love, to being to hand over this holy thing. Now the people got elevated. There’s always that reciprocal process he puts in his piece. I saw a lot of parallels that you were talking about with intimacy. The last time it was like setting up the desire: what’s going on, it’s almost a temptation, the level of paradox. He switched it from paradox to more integration.

Student: He’s saying that as we go through this process of understanding ourselves during the counting of the omer and assuming responsibility as we move into freedom.

Rabbi: Greater risk and greater responsibility. It’s not just getting out and doing anything you want.

Student: It’s not an escape. It’s something I find myself moving into society and daily life as it can be very confusing. I get the concept but then it gets muddy. This idea of becoming commandments. We absorb this sacred fire and then we go out and become commandments if we integrate it.

Rabbi: The spiritual energy in this book is like the sun’s energy. We have to turn ourselves into a voltaic cell, a cell that can store solar energy and then run the light. So we can be inspired and have it affect our life out in the confusing world.

Person: I want to acknowledge the Aish Kodesh being non-judgmental. He’s not saying some people can and some people can’t.

Student: I believe that to whatever capacity I can understand HaShem that that’s really perfect for me. It may be perfection for five minutes.

Rabbi: When we work our thread and join the threads together we have a bigger picture.

Student: Intimacy takes a tremendous amount of work. The more I see it the more other things don’t make sense.

Rabbi: Good Shabbos, good yom tov, good Purim. Thank you for studying with me.

Rabbi Henoch Dov Hoffman teaches in Denver, Colorado. You can contact him through his web page, or via email sh6r6v4t9@aol


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